No one person is made up of one character.

If you’ve ever watched Inside Out, you’re already familiar with this concept. We have internalized versions of ourselves that develop in response to our environments, experiences, and emotions. They are there to serve purposes and solve problems- although it could be argued that some of them deter us more than help us.

Today my therapist brought up my internal personal characters. She asked me to think for a moment and share with her the characters I’ve observed within myself. And so I excitedly shared with her my theories, observations, and previous artwork examples of my personified emotions and habitual reactions.

And I’m here to share them in case they resonate with you, too:

The Survivalist comes in two parts; the Warrior and the Lizard Brain. My Warrior Survivalist files away learned behaviors that have served me well in the past, and attaches practicality to these lessons. This Warrior self-aggrandizes as a form of self-esteem, and keeps a hall of fame of terrors and traumas formerly addressed and “vanquished.” The Lizard Brain dwells on carnal needs like shelter, food, safety, and basic needs. He lives in a constant state of paranoia and anxiety, constantly scurrying for better situations and safer connections. He often affects and triggers…

Fear (Anger). A consistent and reactive character that carries and throws its own weight at any sight of danger or inconvenience. A companion to Lizard Brain, Fear/Anger comes into play as a defensive, proactive plot-twister of sorts. Fear being the primary underlying emotion to anger, the two work hand-in-hand when safety and sense of self are threatened either internally or externally. Fear/Anger is the “maternal” reaction to the Lizard Brain, who plays the needy, often whiny and wimpering “child.”

The Maternal has two parts as well- the Loving Compassionate (Altruistic) and the Protective (Primal). The Primal Maternal is a favored character in general, as it usually appears in tangent with the Warrior Survivalist. Together they work hand-in-hand to conquer and protect the body and mind, utilizing their shared intentions of mastering the art of self-preservation. Primal Maternal sees the world as a binary of threat and potential, and treats all persons and places accordingly to keep the “child” within safe, without asking the child what they actually need and want. Altruistic Maternal is the character within which I feel the most fulfilled; the character within which my true goals and life calling live. Altruistic Maternal is the favored response to the inner child, the one who understands not only how to treat other, but also self, with respect and love.

The Child is the most ignored and least explored character of my…character. Hidden deep in the recesses of trauma and adaptation, the child still makes animal sounds around those it is most comfortable and vulnerable with. The child quivers with delight at grapes and yogurt and the Netflix kid-safe selection of movies. The child is addressed by all the other characters, but is hardly ever given it’s own voice. The child is personified by others as weak and worthless. The child is stifled and surrounded by others that demand that it grow up and cover up it’s obvious displays of naïveté and trust.

These are the main characters that I discussed today- and there is more nuance and specificity within each of them than I will disclose or dissect here. They will always shift and change and challenge one another… because life does, too. And my characters have developed to ultimately get me to the other side of the darkness of life, no matter the cost.

I encourage you to look at your own characters within, and see what you find. Draw them out, sculpt them out, sing them out, write them out- give yourself a visual. Get to know these companions, no matter how “negative” or “bad” they seem. Shake hands and ask questions. At the end of the day, you’re just trying to make it out alive and see the next. Forgive your parts and your self, and strive for self-awareness within the goal of self-improvement.

Be kind to yourself and all your parts, once you discover them.

You got this, we got this.

May you be well, May you be happy, May you be free from suffering.

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